Jason Parillo was in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. for UFC 121 last October when Tito Ortiz dropped to 0-4-1 in his last five contests in front of a hometown audience, remaining winless since 2006.
"He wanted to be there, but he didn't want to win a fight. I texted him as I was watching him leave the Octagon, I said, ‘I got your next fight. I'll take care of you.’ He took me up on it,” the boxing trainer told Bleacher Report after Ortiz knocked down Ryan Bader and submitted him via first-round guillotine choke at UFC 132 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Of the right hand that sent “Darth” to the mat, the man who honed former two-division UFC champion B.J. Penn’s hands commented, “We were able to put confidence into stepping in that pocket and let it go a bit better than [Ortiz] has in the past."
Parillo and Ortiz discussed linking up before the Hamill fight, but it never came to fruition. When Ortiz called to invite him to run the six-week UFC 132 camp, Parillo knew “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” would be well-conditioned, but needed to cultivate a strong mental game to handle the pressure of what UFC president Dana White categorized as a pink-slip fight.
He said to the longest reigning 205-pound champion in UFC history, “The most important thing to me is you stick your head in that fine line is you get knocked the f--- out or you knock this guy out—one or the other. I want you to go [at] this guy and kill or be killed.”
Parillo describes a mutual belief in the gym for unearthing the finisher in Ortiz, who hadn’t stopped anybody not named Ken Shamrock since 2001 despite having only went to decision once in a five-defense title reign.
A former boxer, Parillo had the task of getting a fighter considered past his prime to his peak in time to defeat a once-defeated 5:1 favorite eight years younger than the 36-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion.
"I watched him look at me in the eyes and internalize everything and believe what I'm telling him because he knew it to be true. There were fundamentals that we polished up and he just started clicking,” said the 37-year-old, noting they spent one-on-one time in the gym for a solid portion of the camp.
“His head hasn't been in the right place in a long time. He was in a position where he didn't have a choice but to listen to somebody and he chose to listen to me."
Parillo became confident in Ortiz leading up to the bout when sparring partners—and there weren’t many—that got the best of the Punishment Athletics founder in the past and saw the tides turn against them. The injuries and personal issues Ortiz has publicly endured throughout his four-year losing streak were put aside with mitt work.
Parillo even credits a message from B.J. Penn to Tito Ortiz to believe in the training and everything else would take care of itself as it did for the career-revitalizing performance.
Where Ortiz goes from here is up to him affirms Parillo.
"A hungry fighter that has much talent as Tito does and as much experience as Tito does, they're dangerous. He can do what he wants to do if he really wants to do it, and if that's win a world title, he'll win a world title,” concluded the Orange County RVCA Sports Center coach.
“If he wants to treat this fight like it was his world title, the future may not be that great. But I have a good feeling Tito's hungry."
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